This post is a transcript of a video released in July 2018.
Thanks to Joshua Grubb for the transcription and to JP Marceau for the edition.
One of the arguments we hear coming from the new type of atheist runs something like this: “When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus. When I was a child, I believed in the tooth fairy. But then one day I grew up and I realized that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, I realized that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist, and in the same manner, one day I grew up and I realized that God doesn’t exist.” And usually God in this type of formulation is referred to as something like a sky daddy, or a sky fairy, something disparaging in that manner. Now, I’ve always found that line of argumentation rather funny, because, to me, it seems completely absurd to say that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, because obviously Santa Claus exists.
There are Santa Clauses everywhere at Christmas. There are guys who dress up as Santa Claus. There are Santa Claus decorations and ornaments. We have stories, we have songs, we have all these things which celebrate Santa Claus. And so it is patently absurd to say that Santa Claus does not exist. Now there are certain things that don’t exist, for example, a square circle or dry water. Those things are impossible. They do not exist, but Santa Claus definitely exists. Rather, the question we need to ask is “if Santa Claus exists, in what manner does he?” And I think that asking oneself that question of how it is that Santa Claus exists can maybe help certain people understand the manner in which we say that God exists.
That is, there are things that exist that are not at the level of my coffee cup. Things that are not at the level of my pencil or at the level of a rock or at the level of a concrete thing that you can hold in your hands and say “this is it.” There are things which exist at different levels of being and that don’t have, let’s say, contained bodies. And you can say that about concepts. E.g., love exists but you can’t put it in a bottle. You can’t put it in a box, but it still exists. And actually, Santa Claus exists in a much more immediate and contained manner than something like love, because we know what Santa Claus looks like, we know what his purpose is, what he does. We have stories about him, we have songs that celebrate him, and we have events which celebrate him as well. And so, it is obvious that Santa Claus exists.
Now, people tend to struggle to understand that beings are not obvious. It’s not that obvious how to contain a being. You, for example, have parts. You have hands and fingers. You have toes, eyes, hair, all these different parts. And there is something, your being, your personhood, which holds all those things together, which makes us see that those parts are you.
And there are things that participate in your person. You can get a tattoo. A woman can wear makeup. I can also cut my beard in a certain way, which participates in my person. I can even put on clothing, a certain style of clothing, which at some point will participate in my being even though it’s not completely attached to my body. It’s still part of who I am as a person. So I have these parts, and there’s something which brings those parts together. Now, the same goes with Santa Claus. First of all, he has elements of his person that manifest his being, that is, elements that manifest who Santa Claus is. We all know who Santa Claus is: we all know what he represents and what his purpose is. But his body, that is, Santa Claus’s body, is just not as contained as your body. It is actually a lot bigger than your body. There are parts of Santa Claus: the images of Santa Claus that we see in Walmart, that we see in movies, that we hear in different songs, different stories. This is similar to your pictures which appear online, or that are in your telephone or in some family album. They also are extensions of you. When people see the picture, they recognize you and they come into contact with you. So too Santa Claus has parts. When a guy dresses up as Santa Claus at your mall, he is manifesting Santa Claus. Right. He is a part of Santa Claus to the extent that he’s participating in the being of Santa Claus at that moment.
Now, Santa Claus is a great example because you can actually speak to Santa Claus. When they go to the mall, children can sit on Santa Claus’s lap and speak to him. What will they do? Santa Claus will ask them “Oh, my young child, what would you like for Christmas?” And the child will answer what they want for Christmas and Santa Claus will find some story about how he’s going to try to get that child her gifts for Christmas. Okay, so the child is speaking to Santa Claus. That’s really important to understand. The child is not speaking to Joe, to the Joe under the costume, who’s put on the fake beard. She isn’t speaking to him. She’s speaking to Santa Claus.
And it also isn’t Joe that is answering. It’s Santa Claus that is answering because Joe is not going to tell the little child about his recent divorce or about how his girlfriend left him for his best friend and how he’s in a rush right now, and that’s why he’s taking the stupid Santa Claus job for Christmas. He’s not going to say that. No, he’s going to smile, he’s going to laugh, and he’s going to tell the child about what gifts they’re going to get for Christmas.
If Joe starts to tell the child something else, maybe about his new car he just bought and the payments he has to make, the child will no longer recognize Santa Claus. That person, Joe, will cease to be a body part of Santa Claus.
Now you can write a letter to Santa Claus. You can write it to: “Santa Claus, North Pole”, put it in the mail, send it to Santa Claus. And you know what? Santa Claus is going to answer. And it isn’t Martha sitting in the post office, typing out the letter, who answers. She’s not the one who’s actually answering. She is manifesting Santa Claus.
The same idea applies to you. Say I ask you a question and you answer it. I can say “well, it’s not you that is answering my question, it’s your mouth that answering my question.” But is that true? Is it your mouth that’s answering the question? No, your mouth is the tool by which you are answering the question. And so too the disguised Santa Clauses that go to the mall are the tools by which Santa Claus manifests himself in the world. Santa Claus is a being that’s pretty coherent. He has a personality, he has a way of speaking, you can engage with Santa Claus and Santa Claus will answer.
And this is not just imaginary, because you yourself are not as contained as you think. You, as a person, can be possessed by all these different ideas. You can be influenced by all these external influences. And even in your mind, you are not as centered as you think. You have all these different kinds of crazy personalities that can pull you in different directions. So why do you think that you, as a person, exist? Right, there is something, there is a total way in which those elements are pulled together into a consistent being. If it wasn’t so, we’d say your schizophrenic or we’d say you’re crazy. If you’re not crazy, there’s something pulling those elements together so that when I ask you something, you answer me. I recognize you in that answer.
Now I want to tell you a story about the tooth fairy, because the manner in which the tooth fairy exists is also very interesting to help someone understand what exactly we mean when we talk about spiritual beings and how they can exist in the world. You know, I grew up in a kind of Protestant home. And so, in my house, we didn’t believe in Santa Claus the way that other families did. So, I kind of kept that, that’s a habit. That’s why, in our family, with my kids, we didn’t tell them that Santa Claus exists in the same manner that their uncle exists or their aunt or whatever. We treated it as a game, something to celebrate, something to tell stories about, something to have fun with and celebrate and enjoy, and we did the same with the tooth fairy. So, I never pretended that there was an actual physical fairy that came into my child’s room to put a tooth under her pillow. But we did talk about the tooth fairy. We talked about the story of the tooth fairy and I would kind of joke around with them and say “Oh, the tooth fairy’s going to come and bring money and put it under your pillow.” And I thought that they knew, that physically, the cause of the money getting under the pillow was me. But then, one day – I forget how old she was, I think she was like seven or eight – my daughter lost her tooth and was going to put it under her pillow. And then I said something because I wasn’t being careful at all. I said something to the effect that I had to make sure I wouldn’t forget to put the money under the pillow. And then she looked at me, with these eyes like, like she was devastated. Because I had ruined the magic, I guess, of how other families do it.
And she looked at me with those eyes and she said “What?”. She said “The tooth fairy doesn’t exist?” And then I looked at her and I realized that maybe I hadn’t been careful enough, and that she really had entered into this, you know, full throttle. So, I thought for a second, but it didn’t take me very long to ask her a few questions to help her understand what was going on. And I said, “Why do you think that I would put money under your pillow?” And my daughter said “Well, because I lost my tooth. So, you know, you put money under my pillow” but obviously that is not direct causality. Why would you put money under a pillow because of a tooth? So I asked “Why would I put money under your pillow? Because you lost your tooth?” Because I mean, obviously that’s not that an immediate thing, it’s not that obvious. And then she said, “Well, you’re doing it because of the tooth fairy.” And so that’s what I asked her: “So what you’re saying is that the reason why I put money under your pillow is because of the tooth fairy? So the tooth fairy is making me put money under your pillow?”
And she looked at me. It’s so funny because it seems like even adults don’t understand how that works. But she totally got it. She totally understood what I was talking about. And she had this smile on her face, like she had just discovered a little mystery of how the universe exists. And then it was really fascinating because for some reason, she had to do the same. I think someone or a friend had also lost a tooth, and then she was the one who was going to put the money under the pillow. And she was so excited. She was so happy that she could be the one putting the money under the pillow for the tooth fairy, and realizing that it was because of the tooth fairy that she was doing that.
So I think that that can help people understand how beings function, what it means for something to be a being. What it means when we talk about the notion that certain cities have certain personalities, certain elements which make them unique, make them something. You can then understand why in the Bible we have this notion of the angels of different cities, how different cities have different angels because a city can say something, can speak coherently, can say things which make you recognize that it is that city which is speaking to you. Now, once again, you obviously cannot take it at the first degree. You have to be able to pierce the mystery of how these beings stack up in a hierarchy and how you are also made of parts just like a city is made of parts and your uniqueness is no different from the uniqueness of a city which has its own personality, its own way of speaking. And you can hear a city speak.
It’s not a superstitious thing at all, just like you can hear a country speak, just like you can hear higher level beings. You can encounter them and hear them. Just like you can encounter Santa Claus in the mall by looking at Joe who’s dressed up as Santa Claus. You are in that moment encountering Santa Claus, you are hearing Santa Claus. And you’ll say, “Well, you know, that’s just silly. That’s just absurd.” But you do that all the time. When you encounter a police officer or you encounter a judge or you encounter any official representative of a city or of an entity, that judge is not going to represent to you his own personal proclivities. And if he does that, we’re in trouble. Some people are seeing that happen now, how judges, instead of just manifesting the law, are inserting their opinions into what they’re saying. But in a normal functioning world, when a state holds together, the representatives of that state are there to manifest to you the will of that state, based on its identity, its constitution, its laws. And so when you hear a judge speaking, you are actually speaking to the state that you are encountering to a certain extent. When you pray to a judge, you are praying to the state, which the judge is supposed to manifest. And the judge’s answer is the answer of the state. There is no other answer besides that. You can maybe appeal to a higher-level authority, but it doesn’t matter. Even if you appeal to a higher-level authority, you are appealing to something which manifests the state more and more purely, the law of the state more and more purely. And so you can pray to the angel, – man, some people are gonna freak out at this – to the spirit of the United States and you can hear the spirit of the United States speak through its representative, through its images, through its cultural images, but also through its formal legal representatives. That is just how the world works.
So, atheists, seriously, Santa Claus exists and so does the tooth fairy. There are beings that exist differently from rocks. I hope that helps you understand. If not, leave all your angry atheist comments and all your silly superstitious accusations below, but I have to say that I would make the effort to understand, because it is possible that it is not me who is making a fool of myself.